Further rail fare hikes for January

getting on a train

getting on a trainHard-hit rail commuters face a greater-than-expected 6.2% hike in average fares in the new year after official figures revealed a shock rise in the inflation rate today.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday revealed that July saw an unwelcome rise in retail prices index (RPI) inflation - from 2.8% to 3.2% - which has paved the way for the rise in rail fares.

All of this paints a very bleak picture for rail commuters and families.

In fact, if the changes go through, tens of thousands of us will have to pay more than £5,000 a year for our season tickets from January, according to the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union.

It said people travelling from commuter towns into London will have to spend more than £100 a week from next year just to get to work.

Next stop - price hikes

The average English fare increase is calculated by adding 3% to RPI. On the surface this equates to a hike of 6.2%, but some tickets can be raised by further percentage points, as long as cuts on other fares balance them out.

City experts had expected RPI to remain fixed at 2.8% for the month, but the rise is now sure to impact on several areas of everyday life - notably train fares, including the saver and season tickets many of us use on a daily basis.

Furthermore, an increase in consumer prices index (CPI) inflation from 2.4% to 2.6% has not helped matters, driven largely by air fare hikes and fewer discounts from retailers.

Next year's train fare rises are set to follow a similar increase for this year, meaning fares will have risen by more than inflation for 10 straight years.

It has been announced that unions, transport campaigners and rail passenger groups will stage a day of action at railway stations across the country today to protest against the massive hikes.

So what next?

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said the increases are "untenable" because fares will rise three times faster than salaries next year, which it is claimed will damage the economic recovery.

But, demonstrations aside, it would seem that we may soon have to start facing up to the idea of yet more expensive train journeys.

In terms of the options we face, we can always try and at least make sure we are always getting the best possible deal on our rail fares, by using things such as smartphone apps to simplify rail travel.

In extreme cases it may even be beneficial to start considering other available methods of getting to and from your place of work.

Saving on your motoring costs could prove invaluable if you have to alter your travel arrangements.